Winter is the season where Cold dominates. It belongs to the Water element and the Kidneys. Salty is the associated flavor. During this time of year the majority of the body’s Qi travels inward to the deeper layers in order to protect the Vital Organs from Cold. Qi can become stagnant due to Cold slowing down circulation. Foods consumed throughout the Winter should be warming, acrid & aromatic, sweet, and salty. Warming foods protect against Cold Damage, acrid & aromatic spices help to move Qi to protect against Stagnation, sweet flavors nourish and strengthen Qi, salty flavor supports the Kidneys and helps dissolve Stagnation.
If you have a tolerance for alcohol a small-moderate amount can be consumed regularly to promote Qi circulation, regulate blood flow, stimulate the mind, and warm the body.
Beef & (Sweet) Potato Stew
2 Medium to Large Parsnips - peeled and cubed
3 stalks of Celery - chopped
2lbs Beef Stew Meat (we used Chuck Roast)
1/2 lb Shiitake Mushrooms
3 Potatoes (each a different variety)
1 cup Red Wine
1 1/2 cups Chicken Broth
Oil for frying
The night before prepare the stew meat by cutting into bite-size pieces. Generously and evenly apply salt to all sides of the beef. Wrap up the beef and allow to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Peel parsnips and chop both parsnips and celery into small cubes. Add 1-2 tsp of salt to the vegetables and gently massage to evenly incorporate the salt throughout.
Heat a stock pot on the stove top over medium heat. Add 2-3TBSP oil to the pot, allow a few minutes for it to heat up. Brown beef on all sides, do this in shifts so there is room enough for the beef to brown. Remove beef to a plate to rest as you finish browning. Once you are done with this step set the beef aside.
Wash and chop the Shiitake mushrooms. Brown mushrooms in the same oil you browned the beef in. Once the mushrooms are browned deglaze the pot with 1 cup of red wine. Reduce the wine to half. Add 1 1/2 cups Chicken stock and reduce the heat to medium-low bringing the pot to a low simmer. Return beef to pot and add 1/2-1 TBSP black pepper.
With mild unscented soap thoroughly wash the skins of the potatoes. For deeper complexity of flavor and texture select 3 different varieties of potatoes. Cut into large pieces. Layer the stew by gently pouring the parsnips and celery over the meat, then place the potato pieces over the parsnip mixture. Do not stir.
Gently simmer for 45min. Once the potatoes are soft carefully stir all ingredients together (2-3 stirs is generally all it takes). Check the tenderness of the meat to determine how much longer to cook. Simmer for another 15-30min. Remove from heat and serve with your choice of condiments.
WARMING WINTER CONDIMENTS
1 cup of white sugar
2 cups water
1 bag of peeled whole cooked chestnuts
4 pieces star anise
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamon pods
1 vanilla bean split and scraped 1/2 inch ginger - sliced thinly
In a heavy sauce pot make simple syrup by heating the sugar and water until the sugar has fully dissolved.
Add all the spices and simmer on low until sugar water has reduced by about half.
Set aside and let rest to infuse the spices for about 40 minutes to an hour.
Strain out spices and add chestnuts to the pot.
Simmer over low heat until the the chestnuts become slightly clear, about 30 - 45 minutes. Make sure to not allow the sugar syrup to crystalize.
Remove the chestnuts from the syrup and set aside to dry.
You can save the remaining syrup to make a delicious syrup for fancy coffee drinks!
These are also delicious as a nice little vegan and gluten-free desert with some cashew or coconut cream.
Vegan Horseradish “Creme”
1 cup Hemp seeds
1/4 cup Pumpkin seeds - lightly toasted
1 inch fresh horseradish grated or 1 heaping tablespoon of prepared horseradish
1 clove of garlic (or more if you like)
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 Tablespoon aged Chinese vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
Salt to taste
Water to desired consistency
Blend all in a high-powered blender like a Vitamix until smooth and creamy. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
Spiced Chili Oil with Garlic and Salted Black Beans
2 cups peanut oil (or other high smoke point oil like avocado)
1 cup Sichuan chili flakes
4 cloves garlic - peeled and sliced thinly
1/4 cup salted black beans (found at Asian markets)
5 whole star anise
2 whole cinnamon sticks
3 whole bay leaves (I used fresh but dried is fine) 6 cardamom pods - slightly crushed
1 Tablespoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt (more if you are unable to find salted black beans)
**Please use extra caution when making this recipe**
hot oil can be dangerous
if you do not have a candy thermometer then set your stove to low and let the spices steep in the warm oil
never leave your stove unattended
do not allow children in the kitchen while making this recipe
In a small sauce pot (preferably with a little spout) heat the oil to 225 degrees (use a candy thermometer).
Add spices gently so not to splash the oil.
Simmer about 25 - 30 minutes. Watching to make sure the oil doesn't smoke and the spices do not burn.
When the spices become dark brown (not burnt) and the oil is nicely aromatic, turn the heat off, let cool about 5 minutes.
Pour the oil over the chili flakes, garlic, and black beans using a fine mesh strainer. Let cool and pour into a sealable jar.
Keep it in the fridge up to 6 months (but you will use it up long before that!)
Autumn is the season of nature returning to itself. It is the time of the Metal element which is associated with the organs Lung and Large Intestine. The Lung is associated with the emotion of grief/sadness, the Large Intestine facilitates the process of "letting go".
During this season Yang decreases and moves inward and we see the qualities of Yin begin to grow. In most climates we see a cooling of temperature, plants shed their foliage, and the energies of the body gather on the inside. Foods with a downbearing movement and sour flavor help to consolidate the body’s energy to promote good storage for the Winter.
The Lung is most susceptible to invading pathogens throughout this time of year - the beginning of cold & flu season. Foods that are warm and mildly acrid help to disperse the Lung to protect against cold and dampness. If your climate tends to be more dry during Autumn then moistening foods that nourish the Lungs are recommended.
This recipe was created to be a balance of warm, acrid ingredients and nourishing, moistening foods. Therefore it is appropriate for most climates during the Autumn season.
Millet and apples provide the down-bearing direction. Peanuts and pine nuts moisten the Lungs. Ginger and garlic are both warm/acrid foods to disperse cold and dampness. Corn helps to balance and regulate fluids of the body. Fennel and carrots are warming. Cauliflower cools pathogenic heat in the Lungs. Lemon provides a sour flavor.
Autumn Grain Bowl
2 fennel bulbs
1-2 lbs carrots
2 bulbs of garlic
3-6 TBSP olive oil
1/2 cup millet (soak millet in several inches of water for at least 4 hours before preparing. Can be soaked over night.)
2 cobs fresh corn
1/4 cup dry-roasted (unsalted) Peanuts
1/4 cup pine nuts (pignolias)
1 granny smith apple
1/2 TBSP chopped ginger
1 cup water
Begin by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees. Cut cauliflower into florets and similar sizes. Remove any tough root material from fennel and cut the bulbs into quarters lengthwise keeping the base intact. Peel and cut carrots in half length-wise into roastable pieces. Cut 1 lemon into eighths. Remove all garlic peels leaving the cloves mostly intact. Place the above listed ingredients into a large bowl. Drizzle 3 TBSP olive oil over vegetables, add a couple generous pinches of salt. Toss vegetables until evenly coated with oil. You can add more oil and salt if desired. Pour tossed vegetables onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil making sure they are evenly distributed. Roast in oven for 45min. Remove from oven, toss with spatula, add more salt if desired, then roast for an additional 15min. When vegetables are easily pierced with a fork they are done!
While vegetables are roasting in the oven prepare the grain base. Begin by draining off the soaking water from the millet. In a large saucepan add millet, fresh corn removed from the cob, along with the peanuts and pine nuts. Cut apple into bite-size pieces and add to saucepan. Add ginger, water and 1/2 tsp salt then stir to combine ingredients. Place on stovetop over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook at a simmer for 15min. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
In a dinner bowl first layer the millet/corn mixture then dish up some roasted veggies on top. Cut up the extra lemon and squeeze fresh juice over the dish. Add salt as desired. Enjoy!
**you can easily add your favorite protein (pork, chicken, tofu, egg, etc.) to this dish**
Summer is the season of big Yang and the Fire element. The Heart organ is associated with this time of year. Summer is the hottest season. A hot environment utilizes the body fluids (ie sweating) and can harm the Yin fluids of the body. Heat promotes humidity which can cause unhealthy dampness to accumulate in the body resulting in bloating and poor appetite. Cool, Yin type foods are recommended to nourish and moisten the body. Bitter-cool foods are eaten to drain heat and unhealthy fluid retention from the body. Also bland foods are recommended for people affected by dampness/humidity. It can also be helpful to support the Water element (Kidney organ) during this time. Harmonizing Water and Fire will help prevent insomnia, palpitations and heat-stroke during the hot months. These flavors are eaten in accompaniment to your generally balanced diet.
Hong and I used all organic ingredients in our recipes and we recommend using organic ingredients whenever possible. Choosing organic helps to protect the planet and our bodies from harmful chemicals.
In this recipe eggs nourish Yin to moisten the body, tomatoes clear heat and promote the production of fluids, while the garbanzo beans in the hummus help eliminate unhealthy dampness. Dandelion leaves provide our bitter flavor to drain and cool heat. Crab also clears heat while basil is used as a garnish to stimulate the appetite.
For some people it might seem strange to eat dandelion leaves. This is an excellent time to try something new! Dandelion is most commonly sold at Farmers Markets or at your local natural food store. If your yard grows dandelions you can even pick the leaves and eat your own! (make sure your yard has not been sprayed with weed killer or other chemicals before doing this) If you cannot find fresh dandelion leaves in your area you can substitute fresh spinach. Spinach does not have as much bitter flavor as dandelion but it does clear heat and supports healthy blood.
½ - 1 TBSP High temperature cooking oil (we used avocado oil)
1 TBSP hummus
1 beefsteak tomato OR 2 medium size tomatoes
2 cups dandelion leaves OR fresh spinach
2-4oz crab meat
Basil - as desired
Begin by beating 4 eggs with 1 TBSP hummus until smooth, set aside. Cut and remove seeds from 1 large beefsteak tomato. Heat 1 TBSP oil in frying pan over medium heat. When pan is hot add tomato pieces and cook until some moisture has been reduced and the skin is coming off the fruit, 3-5min. Pour egg mixture over tomatoes and reduce the stove to low heat. Pile 1-2 cups chopped dandelion leaves on top of the eggs. Place crab over dandelion and finish with several leaves of fresh basil. Place cover over the frying pan and allow the eggs to cook through, 5-7min. Remove from heat and rest for a few minutes. Make 2-4 servings. Enjoy!
Hong’s Savory Summer Congee/Lu Dou Lian Zi Zhou
Congee is a traditional Chinese rice based porridge. It is often eaten when the appetite is low because it is easy to digest. This is a great option if you tend to lose your appetite during the summertime. In this recipe Hong adds mung beans, lotus seeds, and dried citrus peel.
Mung bean is sweet and cooling, it will cool the heart and the stomach. This will protect the appetite and keep the Heart calm. Lotus seed tonifies the Spleen and also protects the appetite by transforming dampness. It also strengthens the Kidney and quiets the Heart. Rice nourishes the stomach. Dried citrus peel helps to move and descend the stomach Qi to treat nausea and promote appetite.
Dried citrus (called Chen Pi) can definitely be purchased in its prepared form online or at an asian grocery store. However it is easy to make! Hong saves all of her tangerine peels that she eats during the Winter and dries them in a cool dry place. The dried peels can be stored in an airtight container for several months. Try drying your own a week or so before you make this recipe.
You can garnish your congee with all kinds of nuts, seeds, and berries/fruits. We chose black sesame, sunflower seeds, and raspberries. We selected these toppings because they support the Kidney which is the Water organ. Because Summer belongs to the Fire element it is important to support the Water element so that the Fire does not blaze out of control. Harmonizing these two elements allows for a more comfortable season.
Lotus seeds can be difficult to find outside of an Asian grocery store so here is a link to good quality lotus seeds available through Amazon: **Click Here**
3/4 cup mung beans/Lu Dou
3/4 cup white rice
1/2 cup lotus seed/Lian Zi
1 whole dried citrus peel/Chen Pi
Black sesame seeds
Roasted/salted sunflower seeds
Mix together rice, mung beans, and lotus seeds. Rinse with water twice and drain completely. Place washed mixture in a slow cooker along with citrus peel broken into small pieces. Add 10 cups filtered water. Place slow cooker on low heat and cook for 8 hours or overnight. Mix well and add toppings of your choice. Makes 4-6 servings.
Springtime is characterized by growth, movement, and expansion. Nature is awakening from a time of storage and slumber. The body’s qi begins to flow strongly again and seeks to expand freely. The Yang Qi moves to the surface of the body to protect against external pathogens. Food during spring should supplement Qi, allow it to course freely, and support Liver/Gall Bladder functions, as well as Spleen/Stomach.
Mildly warming foods w/upbearing movement help support the natural movement of this season's energy. Acrid flavors are also helpful for instances of leftover dampness from colder months. Sour flavors stabilize Liver Yin and can regulate uprearing Liver yang. Green foods can be consumed in abundance as green is the color of the Wood element associated with the Spring.
Wind is often a dominating force of the weather in Spring. This can cause an increase in environmental allergies and colds/infectious disease. Eating mild pungent foods such as green onion and chives helps the body to release wind/expel external pathogens.
Pungent (dispersing) & sweet (harmonizing) flavors encourage the breakup of internal energy stored by the body to stay warm through the Winter and transform into active energy for the Springtime.
Springtime Sweet Potato & Leek Soup
In this recipe the Sweet Potato nourishes the Stomach/Earth organ, while the pungent herbs move Qi. The vinegar provides a sour component which aids this dish in nourishing the Liver.
1 TBSP oil (any good quality oil with a high smoke-point. We used organic sunflower oil.)
1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
1 cup sweet potato diced into small to medium cubes
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 Leek, dark green part removed, cut length-wise and sliced into thin strips
1 quart broth (we used chicken broth, you can use any meat or meat-less broth of your choosing)
2-3 TBSP each chives, green onion, and flat leaf parsley
1 TBSP miso
2 TBSP rice vinegar
Begin with a medium/large soup pot on stove. Heat oil in pot over medium heat. Add diced onion. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until onions begin to sweat and become slightly translucent. Season with a pinch of salt. Next add sweet potato and garlic. Cook with onion until sweet potato just starts to become soft 2-3 minutes. Add leeks and another pinch of salt. Cook just until soft, about 1 minute. Add broth to the pot and cover with lid. Bring pot to a low boil, 8-15 minutes. Once pot is boiling add the chopped green onion, chives, and parsley along with another pinch of salt and boil for an additional 5 minutes. Take pot off of heat and wait for it to stop boiling. Mix together the miso paste with the vinegar. Add the miso/vinegar mixture to the pot. Stir together to incorporate the paste. Add any additional salt to taste.
Lions Head Meatballs/Shi Zhi Tou
This recipe is a traditional dish for Chinese New Year. To support the body as it transitions from Winter into Spring. This meat dish nourishes Liver blood and essence in order to supply healthy Qi for Springtime. The meatballs are formed to be large and smooth. This represents abundance, prosperity, and smoothly rolling forward into the New Year.
¾ lb Ground pork
3 TBSP Cooking sherry
3 TBSP Soy sauce
1 TBSP Ginger (finely chopped or grated)
½ cup Daikon radish (finely grated, drained of all excess liquid)
3 Green onions (thinly chopped)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
4-8 TBSP Rice flour
Small handful Black Woodear mushrooms
3-4 baby bok choy or leafy greens of your choice
Prior to beginning recipe soak woodear mushrooms in hot water for 1 hour. Place ground pork in medium sized bowl. Add cooking sherry, soy sauce, egg, ginger, green onion, daikon radish, salt, sugar, and 4 TBSP rice flour to the bowl with the pork. Mix together until all ingredients are evenly distributed. If the texture feels too soft or wet add 1-4 more TBSP of rice flour as desired. Form into 5 equally sized balls. Fill medium pot with 1” water, enough to almost cover the meatballs. Bring water to a rolling boil. Add meatballs to boiling water and cook for 3-5 minutes. Reduce stove to medium heat, add black woodear mushrooms to the water, and cook for another 15 minutes. While meatballs are cooking, in separate pan steam or saute bok choy until tender.
Arrange sauteed bok choy on plate. Place cooked meatballs over bok choy. Garnish as desired. We used goji berries (red) and tangerine peels (yellow) in addition to the (black) woodear and bok choy (green and white) in order to represent all 5 colors of the 5 elements.
Most importantly: enjoy with a happy heart and a happy tummy!